Brig. Gen. Michael Basla, USAF

October 2006
By Brig. Gen. Michael Basla, USAF, Director, Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, and Chief Information Officer, U.S. Transportation Command

Which emerging technology will have the biggest impact on your organization in the future?

The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) provides common-user and commercial transportation, terminal management, aerial refueling and global patient movement for the U.S. Defense Department through the Defense Transportation System and serves as the distribution process owner (DPO) for the department. Information and enabling technologies are critical to delivering DPO capabilities. The DPO establishes and monitors Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise (JDDE) standards for operational performance, data and information technology. It also sets the Defense Department’s distribution technology investment priorities and serves as the department’s distribution portfolio manager, determining a data strategy to capture requirements and to establish standards.

As a functional combatant command supporting the JDDE, the command implements distribution initiatives through strategies such as service-oriented architecture (SOA). The command believes that this strategy will help it to identify and implement its near-, mid- and long-term objectives and to prioritize resources to achieve those objectives.

The command also is incorporating technology changes through a series of initiatives to better support the warfighter. For instance, TRANSCOM partnered with the U.S. Joint Forces Command to develop the integrated Joint Deployment Distribution Architecture (JDDA). This tool performs capability analysis then prioritizes and develops solutions. It incorporates key distribution initiatives and focus areas to ensure interoperability. TRANSCOM works closely with other combatant commands, the armed services and agencies to align their architectures with the JDDA framework, producing the first federated architecture within the Defense Department.

Another area identified as a technology solutions candidate is the operations directorate’s Focus Warfighter. The command is leading the effort to initiate process improvements and to establish tracking and metrics to better meet warfighter requirements. The challenge is to develop a common operating picture to better support distribution command and control.

In addition, the command is standardizing port management and manifesting capabilities. This involves converging the Global Air Transportation Execution System (GATES) and Worldwide Ports System (WPS) into a single port operations capability. Real-world events such as the Russian submarine rescue near the KamchatkaPeninsula and the Pakistan earthquake response highlighted the need for joint port operations. Joint Task Force–Port Opening was conceived and tested during the operation Bright Star exercise using automated identification technologies (AIT) to support force deployment and redeployment as well as radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging. Tag interrogators and interfaces to RFID servers provided greater asset and in-transit visibility.

To deal with the challenges these initiatives pose, TRANSCOM leverages current enterprise architecture to identify business areas and initiatives that are candidates to transition to an SOA environment. SOA principles dictate that services be reusable, loosely coupled, autonomous, stateless, discoverable and composeable and that they share a formal contract. SOAs reduce costs and complexity, increase agility and leverage existing assets. Achieving these benefits requires reliable information technology governance such as standards, policies, funding and associated infrastructure for hosting, monitoring and testing services.

Consolidating legacy systems like GATES and the WPS using an SOA strategy poses common but difficult problems, and technology solutions are being explored. These legacy systems contain software assets, business rules and possibly redundant data architecture locked in segregated systems, but they also contain institutional knowledge that business users need. As a transition, TRANSCOM is reviewing an SOA technique of wrapping legacy systems using SOA middleware. Likewise, the command will continue to research other emerging modernization approaches that transform legacy systems using the target SOA enterprise architecture.

Strong governance is required to bring these initiatives to fruition. DPO governance comprises the Distribution Process Owner Executive Board, the Distribution Transformation Task Force and the Distribution Steering Group. These bodies directly influence the SOA governance process by defining responsibilities and authorities of the DPO. Similarly, SOA governance addresses the convergence of business and information technology services for effective SOA implementation. The integration of DPO and SOA governance is essential to implementing SOA solutions.

In the next two to five years, TRANSCOM will focus the distribution enterprise on a series of comprehensive core services that comprise multiple, subordinate services. The challenge is to better understand and implement SOAs in moving from existing infostructure and infrastructure to core services without disrupting existing capabilities. By using an incremental approach, the command will be interoperable and will provide better tool sets to the execution community that are less costly and more effective and that deliver more responsive operational support.